Virtual food halls, cloud kitchens gain popularity in Richmond

They're called Virtual Food Halls and Cloud Kitchens and they're becoming a popular way for people to order online from various restaurants in one transaction.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 7:25 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2023 at 7:08 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The lasting impacts of the pandemic on the Richmond restaurant scene are on full display, but in a good way. Many restaurateurs were forced to pivot to stay afloat, bringing about exciting new business models.

The concept is called a “Virtual Food Hall” or a “Cloud Kitchen.” They’re becoming a popular way for people to order online from various restaurants in one single transaction, and all the meals are made in the same facility.

“The restaurant business has changed forever,” Owner of A.M. Kitchen Virtual Food Hall Curtiss Stancil said.

Stancil launched the concept after COVID-19 halted his catering and concessions business.

“A day or two went on to several months, and our business was completely shut down,” he said.

Now, he has several restaurant concepts preparing food under one roof, offering takeout, delivery and dine-in.

For example: if Mom is craving African street food, but Dad wants a burger, and the kids want chicken biscuits, the whole family can order what they want all from one place.

“The virtual food hall for us means we operate multiple brands out of our kitchens,” Stancil said. “The business of the virtual market is here to stay.”

After having major success, he is preparing to open a second location in Richmond near VCU.

“Our business has been growing annually since COVID. We’ve been one of the companies that have benefited from it,” Stancil said. “When consumers find our brands on those apps, we prepare the items out of our kitchens, and our partners pick them up and deliver them to consumers. "

He says this also helps with the issue of the labor shortage in the restaurant industry, as all ordering is virtual.

“We’re constantly busy, we have four revenue streams coming through our units, so we’re able to pay a high wage that we could not do if you were just waiting for one meal or just waiting for a consumer to come through the door,” Stancil said.

Stancil says they can keep adding different types of cuisine under the business umbrella.

“Instead of going on to build another brick and mortar environment, we can launch another brand and really maximize the kitchen space that traditionally was draining restaurants and food service companies,” he said.

A.M. Kitchen also has a location in Scott’s Addition inside the Richmond Eats facility, another cloud kitchen in the area.

It isn’t just virtual ordering that’s booming, but it’s also the appeal of food halls in general.

Hatch Local Food Hall opened in Manchester last year.

Another one is in the works for the redeveloped Regency Mall.

In late 2023, Scott’s Addition will also be home to one.